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Level 5

5AACTL36 Ancient Sexuality I

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutor: Dr Daniel Orrells
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour seminars (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 2-hour examination (100%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Assessment pattern for Graduate Diploma/Study Abroad students

The assessment pattern below applies for Semester 1-only Study Abroad students (when the module runs in Semester 1). Study Abroad students otherwise follow the undergraduate assessment pattern listed above. 

Assessment: 2 x 2,000-word essays (100%, essays worth 50% each)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

This module will examine a wide range of texts and images which provide evidence about concepts, beliefs, ideologies and sexual practices in the ancient world. It will look at art, ancient novels, didactic poetry as well as the legal framework surrounding issues such as family life and prostitution. We will also consider modern debates about and theoretical approaches to sexuality and gender and how these relate to the material from the ancient world. In addition, anxieties and fantasies of the modern world as well as beliefs and prejudices have shaped our interpretation and understanding of this ancient evidence.

This module can be studied in translation.

Provisional teaching plan

  • Week 1: Introduction. Sexuality and gender
  • Week 2: Gender in archaic Greece
  • Week 3: Epic sex and gender
  • Week 4: Heroic sexuality
  • Week 5: Homeric women
  • Week 6: Centaurs, satyrs, maenads: boundless sex
  • Week 7: Erotic ancient art
  • Week 8: Ancient Prostitution
  • Week 9: Cult and Sexuality
  • Week 10: Constructing masculinities: ephebes, hunting and war

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

  • Davidson, J. (2007) The Greeks and Greek Love (London)
  • Foucault, M. (1985) The Use of Pleasure: The history of sexuality vol 2 (London)
  • Foxhall, L. (2013) Studying Gender in Classical Antiquity (Cambridge)
  • Halperin, D. M. (1990) One Hundred Years of Homosexuality: And Other Essays on Greek Love (London)
  • Halperin, D. M., Winkler, J. J. and Zeitlin, F. I. (edd.) (1990) Before Sexuality: The Construction of Erotic Experience in the Ancient Greek World (Princeton)
  • Holmes, B. Gender: Antiquity and its Legacy (London/New York)
  • Loraux, N. (1993) The Children of Athena: Athenian Ideas About Citizenship and the Division Between the Sexes (Princeton).
  • Mottier, V. (2008) Sexuality: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford)
  • Ormand, K. (2015) ‘Foucault’s History of Sexuality and Classics’ in Masterson, M., N. S. Rabinowitz, and J. Robson (eds.). (2015). Sex in Antiquity: Exploring Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World (Routledge: New York), pp. 54-68.
  • Orrells, D. (2015) Sex: Antiquity and its Legacy (London/New York)
  • Parker, H. N. (2001) 'The Myth of the Heterosexual: Anthropology and Sexuality for Classicists', Arethusa 34: 313-362.
  • Pomeroy, S.B. (1976) Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity (London)
  • Richlin, A. (1998) ‘Foucault’s History: useful for women?’ in Larmour, D. H. J., Miller, P. A. and Platter, C. (edd.) (1998) Rethinking Sexuality: Foucault and Classical Antiquity (Princeton)
  • Robson, J. (2013) Sex and Sexuality in Classical Athens (Edinburgh)
  • Winkler, J.J. (1990) The Constraints of Desire: the Anthropology of Sex and Gender in Ancient Greece (London).
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